Mental Processes

Your constantly-updated definition of Mental Processes and collection of videos and articles

What are Mental Processes?

Mental processes encompass all the things that the human mind can do naturally. Common mental processes include memory, emotion, perception, imagination, thinking and reasoning.

Since the human mind is constantly active, mental processes are continuously relevant and affecting or intaking events from daily life.

To a user experience designer, mental processes are of utmost importance. For example, when a designer knows the nature and limitations of a mental process, such as memory, the design will be tailored according to that mental process’s capacity.

Questions related to Mental Processes

What are mental processes in psychology?

Mental processes in psychology refer to internal, invisible, activities in our minds. These include thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving. These processes form the basis of our actions, decisions, and feelings. They are complex and vary from person to person. 

Psychologists study mental processes to understand human behavior better. They use methods like “observation” to explore how mental activities influence our daily lives. Understanding these processes helps in developing strategies that improve mental health and well-being. Mental processes are essential for learning, memory, and perception. They play a crucial role in shaping our personality and behavior.

What is the term for the mental processes that occur without one's awareness?

The term for mental processes without awareness is "unconscious" or "subconscious." These processes operate automatically and influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They remain outside conscious awareness. 

The unconscious mind stores desires, memories, and experiences. It subtly shapes our actions and emotional responses. Psychologists focus on these processes to understand human behavior and mental health. Understanding unconscious processes helps in unraveling complex psychological phenomena.

What are the 8 mental processes?

Mental processes involve the range of activities happening in our minds. These processes shape our interactions with the world and influence our behavior and emotions. The eight recognized mental processes are:

  1. Perception: How we interpret and make sense of sensory information. It differs from sensation. 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
Video copyright info

Copyright holder: Michael Murphy _ Appearance time: 07:19 - 07:37 _ Link:

  1. Attention: Our ability to focus on specific stimuli or thoughts.

  2. Memory: Storing and recalling information from past experiences.

  3. Learning: Acquiring new knowledge or skills through experience or education.

  4. Language: Using words and symbols to communicate thoughts and feelings.

  5. Thought: Processing information to form concepts, solve problems, or make decisions.

  6. Motivation: The driving force behind our actions and goals.

  7. Emotion: Experiencing and expressing feelings like happiness, anger, or sadness.

These processes influence how we understand and interact with the world.

Why should you study mental processes?

Studying mental processes helps you better understand human behavior. It provides insights into how people think, feel, and decide. When you learn these processes, you recognize behavior and thought patterns. This understanding improves mental health and well-being. Mental health professionals use this knowledge to develop effective therapies. 

Individuals gain enhanced self-awareness and interpersonal skills as they study mental processes. This study promotes empathy and helps individuals understand others' perspectives. In education, it improves teaching methods and learning approaches. In workplaces, it boosts productivity and communication. Thus, studying mental processes helps in personal and societal growth.

What are thought process examples?

Thought processes encompass a variety of mental activities. Here are some examples:

  • Problem-solving: Breaking down a complex issue into smaller parts to tackle it, for example, figuring out how to fix a broken appliance.

  • Decision-making: Choosing between options, for instance, deciding which job offer to accept.

  • Creative thinking: Generating new ideas or concepts. Like brainstorming themes for a party.

  • Critical thinking: Evaluating information critically. Such as analyzing a news article for bias.

  • Planning: Mapping out steps to achieve a goal, for example, planning a vacation itinerary.

  • Reflecting: Thinking back on past experiences. For example, consider how a past mistake led to personal growth.

  • Ruminating: Thinking about the same thing, often a problem or a negative experience.

This video discusses externalization. It’s a process where people possess thoughts but may not be consciously aware of them. These thoughts transform into more concrete and actionable ideas. This concept particularly resonates with creative and critical thinking. 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…

What is the mental process called?

The term "cognition" describes the mental process. It involves various abilities and processes related to acquiring knowledge. Cognition includes attention, memory, judgment, reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, as well as understanding and producing language. Spatial cognition, an essential aspect of cognition, relates to processing and understanding spatial information in the environment. It involves how we perceive, remember, and navigate space. 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
Video copyright info

Copyright holder: Appearance time: 0:31 - 0:35 Copyright license and terms: CC BY Link:

Copyright holder: Taqtile Appearance time: 1:28 - 1:42 Copyright license and terms: CC BY Link:

Cognition highlights the active information-processing capabilities of the brain. It reflects an individual's ability to perceive, learn, remember, and think about information.

What are the mental processes of the human brain?

Mental processes refer to the internal functions that enable us to perceive, think, learn, and interact with our environment. These processes include:

Alan Dix provides an insightful exploration of sensory memory. It’s a vital aspect of these mental processes. It shows how sensory memory acts as a short-term buffer for information from our senses. It influences our perception and interaction with the world.

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…

Understanding these mental processes reveals the complexity and sophistication of the human brain. Each process plays a crucial role in our daily lives, from how we focus our attention to how we reason and make decisions.

Is memory a mental process?

Yes, memory serves as a mental process. It involves storing, retaining, and recalling information and experiences from the past. Memory is crucial in learning, decision-making, and everyday life navigation. It enables individuals to retain and access facts, events, sensations, and skills over time.

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…

Memory shapes personality, behavior, and cognitive functioning. It comes in various forms, like short-term, long-term, and working memory. Each type performs unique functions in information processing and retention. Cognitive psychology and neuroscience focus heavily on understanding memory's mechanisms. This emphasizes its importance in the human cognitive system.

What is the cognitive process in UX?

The cognitive process in UX (User Experience) design refers to how users perceive, understand, and interact with a product or system. It involves understanding how users process information, make decisions, and solve problems when interacting with a user interface. Key aspects include:

  • Perception: How users interpret visual elements of a design, like colors, shapes, and layout.

  • Attention: What captures and holds users' focus within the interface.

  • Memory: How design elements help users remember how to use the product.

  • Learning: Ease of learning how to navigate and use the interface.

  • Problem-solving and Decision-making: How users approach tasks and make choices using the interface.

  • Mental Models: Users’ expectations and understanding of how the system should work.

UX designers use these cognitive principles to create user-friendly interfaces. It enhances usability, satisfaction, and user experience.

Where to learn more about mental processes?

To deepen your understanding of mental processes, explore these articles:

  • The course The Brain and Technology: Brain Science in Interface Design delves into the connection between human brains and technology. You’ll learn how to design user-friendly software, mobile apps, and websites, ensuring seamless interactions between human intuition and technology.

  • The article on Human Memory covers the concept of human memory, types of mnemonics, and tips to enhance user memory. It's an excellent resource for understanding how memory works. 

  • Learn about spatial memory, including its elements and how it relates to user experience (UX), in this article on Spatial Cognition. This piece is insightful for understanding spatial cognition in daily life.

Article on Recognition vs Recall: This article compares these two cognitive processes essential for understanding how we retrieve information. It helps grasp the differences in remembering and recognizing information.

Literature on Mental Processes

Here’s the entire UX literature on Mental Processes by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Mental Processes

Take a deep dive into Mental Processes with our course The Brain and Technology: Brain Science in Interface Design .

How do you know if your next computer system, app or website will be a success? Well, if you look at all major technological advances in the last few decades, you’ll see that it heavily depends on whether it works well with people. Developments such as email, smartphones, and social networks have all involved some form of human-to-computer interaction and interface. The critical success factor for modern technology has therefore become not what it does but how it interacts with people. For example, can you even imagine life without your smartphone these days? Technology has interwoven itself not only into the human psyche but also quite literally—handheld devices can now be seen attached to peoples’ palms in virtually any setting.

When people use technology, a biological information processor (i.e., the brain) interacts with a mechanical information processor (i.e., the computer)—and this interaction will fail if there is no common ground. If you, as a designer, miss the mark between these two worlds of natural and artificial intelligence, they will collide jarringly. This course will therefore merge brain science and computer science in order to teach you the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). You will learn optimal approaches to designing better software, mobile applications, and websites, including online communities, by learning how to create software that interacts with human intuitions. Such knowledge of HCI is now a critical skill—building new hardware and software goods will result in negative returns on investment (ROI) if users can’t or don’t want to use them. Designers must know the basics of brain science in order to practice computer science, not only for people but for communities, too.

The course is created and presented by Brian Whitworth, a registered psychologist who is also trained in computing and has a wealth of experience and qualifications in both fields: BA (Psych), BSc (Maths), MA (Psych), PhD (IS), and Major (Retd.). Each lesson highlights a particular brain-technology difference and uses it to explain what works—and what doesn’t—when people use technology. Every lesson is further divided into ten-minute video blocks, that you can watch independently, so as to fit your learning experience into a busy schedule.

Open Access—Link to us!

We believe in Open Access and the democratization of knowledge. Unfortunately, world-class educational materials such as this page are normally hidden behind paywalls or in expensive textbooks.

If you want this to change, , link to us, or join us to help us democratize design knowledge!

Share Knowledge, Get Respect!

Share on:

or copy link

Cite according to academic standards

Simply copy and paste the text below into your bibliographic reference list, onto your blog, or anywhere else. You can also just hyperlink to this page.

Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF. (2020, October 8). What are Mental Processes?. Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF.

New to UX Design? We’re Giving You a Free ebook!

The Basics of User Experience Design

Download our free ebook The Basics of User Experience Design to learn about core concepts of UX design.

In 9 chapters, we’ll cover: conducting user interviews, design thinking, interaction design, mobile UX design, usability, UX research, and many more!

A valid email address is required.
312,378 designers enjoy our newsletter—sure you don’t want to receive it?